Volkswagen and Philadelphia cheese are the first brands to fail the Advertising Standard Authority’s new rules on gender stereotyping in ads, which came into force in June, with industry bodies expressing surprise and concern at the bans.

One ad, for Volkswagen’s eGolf, showed men being adventurous as a woman sat by a pram, while the other, for Mondelēz-owned Philadelphia cheese, showed two fathers leaving a baby on a restaurant conveyor belt.

The ASA accepted the cheese ad had a light-hearted intent, but said it “relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for children as well as women, and implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly because of their gender”.

Jess Tye, investigations manager at the Advertising Standards Authority, told the BBC that gender stereotypes in advertising could cause “real-world harms”.

And she argued that “ads that specifically contrast male and female stereotypes need to be handled with care: it’s about thinking about what the cumulative effect of those gender stereotypes might be.”

Industry bodies supported the introduction of the new rules but are now questioning how these are being applied.

Richard Lindsay, Director of Legal and Public Affairs at the IPA, described the rulings as “surprising and concerning”.

“We question how either can really be considered likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence,” he said. “These rulings raise many questions and are bound to cause confusion in the industry over whether, and if so, how, ads are able to feature people going about their daily lives.”

Most ads aren’t problematic, continued, before adding that “the introduction of the new rule and guidance – or the ASA’s interpretation of them – may be likely to cause more harm than good. We will be raising our concerns the ASA on this issue.”

Clearcast, the body responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast, had a similar view. “The ASA’s interpretation of the ads against the new rule and guidance goes further than we anticipated and has implications for a wide range of ads,” it said.

Sourced from BBC; additional content by WARC staff